September 21, 2012

Group follows saint’s lead connecting faith, law and life

By John Shaughnessy

Like most people, Mark McKinzie has faced moments in life when he had to choose between what he knew in his heart was the right thing to do, and another choice that would benefit him in some way and that no one would question.

In those moments, McKinzie has sometimes drawn inspiration from St. Thomas More—the Catholic lawyer and martyr who chose his faith instead of his life when he refused in 1535 to publicly acknowledge King Henry VIII as the head of the Church in England.

Asked to share a moment when his faith has shaped a choice in his life, McKinzie stressed that the situations he has faced as a lawyer are far less dramatic than the one that St. Thomas More confronted.

Then the father of three grown children shared one of those moments—a moment that entailed extensive injuries to one of his daughters after she fell from a diving board ladder at a public pool years ago.

“She was 7 at the time,” he recalls. “She broke both of her arms, her nose and both cheekbones. She was in the hospital for 10 days. The insurance company said we’d really like to settle with you. They offered $5,000. I said, ‘No, it was an accident.’ Somebody called her name, she slipped on the ladder and it was an accident. They thought it was a ploy, with me being an attorney who works in insurance. They increased it to $10,000. I said, ‘No, it was an accident.’

“By the end, I could have signed a paper and made $15,000. But I knew it wasn’t right.”

McKinzie’s story reflects a desire to connect faith and life—principle and the law profession—that has led to a resurgence in the past two years of the St. Thomas More Society, an organization of Catholic legal students and professionals in the archdiocese.

“Sometimes in the hubbub of secular life, it’s easy to not pay attention and reflect on the gift of our Catholic faith, and how we need to celebrate it and share it with others,” says McKinzie, a member of the society. “The St. Thomas More Society brings all those things together.”

The society’s Indiana chapter will mark its main event on Oct. 9 with a celebration of the Red Mass at 5:30 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. A dinner reception will follow at 6:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. During the reception, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, is scheduled to present the society’s “Man for All Seasons” Award to Daniel Elsener, president of Marian University.

The liturgy is known as a “Red Mass” because it is typically a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit when the celebrant would wear a red chasuble. It is celebrated at the start of the new legal year, which is similar to an academic year. The Holy Spirit is invoked to aid lawyers and judges in their work.

“The opportunity to celebrate Mass and seek God’s guidance in the administration of justice with my colleagues of all faiths is one I look forward to each year,” says Nancy Gargula, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, who is an attorney and a United States trustee. “The meetings and gatherings are a source of renewal and a reminder of what is important.”

Gargula has been a member of the society and its board for more than 20 years. She remembers how it was “a big event in the Indianapolis legal community with hundreds of judges, elected officials and attorneys of all faiths” forming a standing-room-only presence during the Red Mass. In comparison, participation “had almost disappeared” two years ago. That’s when Marion County Superior Court Judge David Certo led an effort that has revitalized the organization.

“The real bonus is the chance to spend time with friends and colleagues who share our Catholic faith,” Gargula says. “It is easy to get caught up in the fast-paced, demanding and conflicting deadlines that often accompany the practice of law. The St. Thomas More Society and its members have been a source of inspirational respite and affirmation of my beliefs.”

The society has also had an impact on McKinzie’s life, work and faith.

“The St. Thomas More Society certainly reaffirms that I’m not the only one out there who takes their faith seriously,” says McKinzie, a member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. “The society brings together men and women of all ages and demographics who want to practice our faith together and enjoy our faith together. It attracts from the heart.”

(For more information about the Red Mass and tickets for the dinner reception on Oct. 9, contact Ida Lamberti by phone at 317-236-1502 or by e-mail at For information about membership in the St. Thomas More Society, contact Patrick Olmstead by phone at 317-822-4400, ext. 106, or by e-mail at

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